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NEWS | June 16, 2014

Diamond Tip: special duty

By Master Sgt. Matthew Ancell 373 TRS/Detachment 5 assistant first sergeant

A few years ago, I was staring at my computer screen and contemplating volunteering for a special duty assignment. My supervisors and mentors had recommended that I take a chance, try something completely new and step outside my comfort zone. Feeling apprehensive, I read the advertisement for an instructor position one last time before clicking the button.

Serving in any special duty is more than what you see in the duty title and job description. Sure, I knew what an instructor was, but I had no clue what an instructor did on a day-to-day basis. It turns out I would be learning more than teaching skills during this assignment; I would also be learning how to lead leaders. These lessons were not obvious at first, but the intangible benefits of a special duty assignment are just as important as the tangible ones.

Tangible benefits are easy to pick out. They are typically measureable and include such things as location, breadth of experience, change of pace and a predictable schedule. Personally, I wanted to teach and have time to complete my off-duty education while spending time with my family. I also found that public speaking became more comfortable, my writing skills improved and the number of personnel I'm responsible for leading grew.

The intangible benefits are just as numerous, but harder to see. These are things like professionalism, selflessness and subject matter expertise. As an instructor, professionalism is of the upmost importance. This adherence to values and ethics promotes a more effective work atmosphere and leadership approach. Selflessness is inherently learned when leading a class. Students are our focus, even if we have to work additional hours to ensure that each member in the class successfully accomplishes an objective. Finally, teaching requires an extraordinary amount of subject matter expertise. Having that level of proficiency is beneficial anytime, from work performance to promotion testing.

I encourage anyone who is considering a special duty assignment to seek out a mentor in that field. Ask them what the tangible and intangible benefits were for them, and you may find out that you'll gain much more experience than you expected.